Although some of us look at mesa landscaping as more of a business than an art form, the truth is, landscaping has a rich and intricate history that has a lot to say about the social and cultural development of our society. In fact, some speak so highly of landscaping as a form of ancient art that they trace its roots to one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon created in 600 BC.
While we’re busy installing landscapes that bring the best of modern technologies to our customers, like outdoor televisions and sound systems, it’s easy to forget just how much the idea of ‘landscaping’ has changed over time. Just a few decades back, landscaping was considered an absolute luxury. Only the ‘well-to-do’ could afford to decorate their outdoor space with beautiful garden beds and patios and deck out their backyard with the latest outdoor toys.
Nowadays, some form of landscaping – even if it means a few trees, a small yard, a porch or patio – is expected. That being said, while basic landscaping is the norm, most homeowners actually take it a step further. They feel it is important to enhance the curb appeal to their home and, more importantly, they enjoy having an outdoor space that is completely tailored to their own tastes. Hence, the desire to treat the landscape as an extension of the home, complete with all the comforts and added luxuries of the inside interior. But it wasn’t always this way.
For fun, here’s a look back at the landscaping trends of earlier decades – minus today’s Japanese-inspired spa gardens, outdoor kitchens, and fire pit tables.
The Roarin’ 20’s:
1920’s landscaping was all about the greenery. There was a real desire to celebrate and welcome nature in all its glory, which led homeowners to install bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths, as well as fish ponds and rock gardens… anything that would draw more nature to the home. At this time, bird watching was a shared hobby, so plants and trees with berries (such as holly, hawthorne, nandina, rugosa roses, crabapples) were popular choices.
In the 1920’s home, the front yard was considered the “public place” and was, therefore, the space that received the most attention with regards to landscaping. Most houses featured a wide front porch, often furnished with rockers and swings so that folks could comfortably enjoy the natural outdoor scenery. Most front yards didn’t have fences, and walkways and driveways were typically lined with perennials, such as Canterbury bells, irises, foxgloves, phlox, pyrethrum, coreopsis, hollyhocks, roses, columbine, delphinium, poppies, and carnations and annuals, such as California poppies, cosmos, petunias, snapdragons, verbena, bachelor’s buttons, centaurea (sweet sultan), strawflowers, marigolds, drummond phlox, asters, etc. Shrubs were boxwood, holly, yews, abelia.
The backyard, often referred to as the “service area” was mostly reserved for drying clothes on clothes lines and storing garbage cans, although some owners designated a small area in the backyard as a “private place,” which was usually screened off or fenced in or surrounded by a border of trees or shrubs to shield residents from their neighbors’ watchful eyes and from the sun.
Popular recreational activities often found their way into the landscape design. Campfires, bowling greens, putting greens, and croquet grounds were popular landscape features.
The Dirty 30’s:
The decade of the Great Depression saw little advancements on the landscaping front. Most homeowners were struggling to make ends meet, which meant little to no money was left over to spend on luxuries, such as landscaping. That being said, there were still a few popular gardening trends. Large rose gardens were popular during the 1930s, as were plants such as hydrangeas, lilacs and hostas.